Many nursing mothers choose to express and store their milk so that their babies continue to receive it when they are not available (for example, while they sleep or when they are busy at work). If you decide to store your breast milk, it is important that you prepare it properly before you provide it to your baby.
Part 1 of 3: Express Breast Milk
Step 1. Wash your hands before handling or expressing breast milk
This detail is very important to prevent bacteria from your hands from contaminating the milk. The immune system of babies is not fully developed like that of adults, so bacteria that do not cause disease in older people can be harmful to the baby.
- You should rub your hands well with soap. Do not forget to do it under the nails and between the fingers as well.
- Rinse your hands with lukewarm water. Run the water over your hands to wash off any dirt or bacteria that may be attached.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel.
Step 2. Start the flow of milk
If you express your milk during the times when you are breastfeeding, this procedure will help you to continue producing milk in a timely manner for your baby. You do not need to wash your breast or nipple before pumping. You can start the flow by sitting in a quiet place and thinking about your baby. If you have problems, you can try the following:
- Look at a photo of your baby.
- Hold onto a blanket or article of clothing that smells like your baby.
- Gently massage your breasts or nipples.
- Put warm, moist compresses on your breasts.
Step 3. Express breast milk by hand
This technique has the benefit of being comfortable and inexpensive. You do not need to purchase any specialized equipment for this procedure. It will likely take some practice. Once you have mastered the technique, you can do it as quickly as when using a pump.
- Place your index finger (or thumb) on opposite sides of the areola.
- Move your finger back against your chest.
- Gently squeeze your fingers as you move them slightly towards the nipple. You should not run your fingers along your skin.
- Decrease the pressure. You should continue the procedure while moving your fingers in different positions around the areola.
- You may find it difficult to collect the milk while expressing it by hand. Try expressing it into a large, clean bowl or sterile wide-mouth container. You may want to place these containers on a table that is at hip height or hold them with one hand. Also, you can express the milk in a storage bag. Hold the bag with one hand and express the milk with the other.
Step 4. Use a breast pump and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
There are two main types of breast pumps: manual and electric.
- Manual breast pumps require you to work with your hands. Also, they require some skill and practice. This option is generally best if you only need to express your milk occasionally, as it can increase your risk of getting a breast infection. Manual breast pumps generally cost $ 50 or less.
- Electric breast pumps run on batteries or electricity. In addition, they can express milk from both breasts simultaneously. They usually cost between $ 150 and more than $ 250.
- The extractors should be washed with soap and water after each use.
Step 5. Avoid second-hand extractors
There is a difference between extractors for sale and those for rent. Rental pumps have a closed system, which means that there are certain parts of the pump that never come into contact with the milk. The pumps for sale have an open system, which means that the pump motor comes into contact with the milk. Unfortunately, open system pumps (unlike rental ones) cannot be fully sterilized due to the way they are constructed. Therefore, if you use a second-hand pump, your baby may receive some particles from another mother's milk.
- Viruses like HIV (AIDS) can be spread through breast milk.
- Rental pumps can be obtained from hospitals or organizations that support breastfeeding.
- Health insurance must cover the cost of pumps under the Affordable Care Act in the United States.
Part 2 of 3: Storing Breast Milk
Step 1. Prepare a clean container to store the milk while you express it
It is important that you sterilize the container and that it is strong enough to prevent it from breaking. Also, you should make sure that it does not contain Bisphenol A.
- You can store the milk in a sterile bottle. The lid must be airtight so that the milk does not spill or become contaminated. You can also use screw cap bottles. Bottles have the advantage of being stronger and less prone to tears and leaks than bags. Because milk expands as it freezes, you should avoid filling the container to the brim.
- You can style the bottles using steam, boiling water, or a commercial solution to sterilize cold water. Follow the manufacturer's instructions so you know how to style the bottles. You will likely be instructed to boil the bottles in water for several minutes. You can find a steam sterilizer at your local pharmacy.
- You can find bags designed for storing breast milk at your local pharmacy or at any baby supply store. Place the bags in a plastic container to protect them while you store them.
- You should not use regular thin plastic bags or formula bottle bags, as they are not strong enough. Also, they are more prone to tearing.
- Write the date on the container so you know how long it has been in storage. If you provide the milk to someone else (for example, at a daycare center), you must label the milk with the child's name.
- Also, you must write how many milliliters of milk you expressed to know how many bags you need to defrost at a time.
Step 2. Don't add new milk to frozen milk
Milk is usually warm when it is expressed. Placing it on top of frozen milk will partially thaw it and cause bacteria to grow.
If the baby does not finish all the milk in a serving, you should not save the leftovers to reuse them later. Some people find it helpful to store 2 to 4 ounces (60 to 120 ml) separately. This way, you only have to defrost the amount necessary for one serving
Step 3. Follow the recommended guidelines for milk storage
The amount of time that milk should be stored depends on the temperature at which it is stored. If your baby was born premature or with a disease, you should follow the guidelines provided by your doctor. Here are some guidelines designed for healthy babies who have reached nine months of gestation:
- Milk can be kept at room temperature (25 ° C or 77 ° F) for no more than six hours. You should cover it and keep it fresh. If the room is warmer, the milk should not be kept for more than four hours.
- Milk can be stored in an insulated cooler bag (-15 to 4 ° C or 5 to 39 ° F) for 24 hours. The ice packs should remain in the insulated bag along with the milk.
- Milk can be stored in a refrigerator (4 ° C or 39 ° F) for five days. The temperature will be more constant in the back of the refrigerator.
Step 4. Observe the recommended time limits for freezing the milk
If you store the milk in the back of the freezer, the temperature will be more constant. This will minimize the temperature fluctuations that occur when the freezer is opened and closed. If milk is stored for longer than indicated, it will begin to deteriorate and become less nutritious.
- Milk that is stored in the freezer section of a refrigerator (-15 ° C or 5 ° F) can keep for two weeks.
- Milk that is stored in a separate freezer section of a refrigerator (-18 ° C or 0 ° F) can keep for three to six months. The freezer should have a separate section so that the temperature does not rise every time someone opens the refrigerator.
- Milk that is stored in a freezer (-20 ° C or -4 ° F) can keep for six to twelve months.
Part 3 of 3: Preparing Stored Breast Milk
Step 1. Use the oldest milk first
This way, you will avoid storing the milk too long or wasting it. Also, the nutrients in breast milk change over time to provide your baby with what he needs in the present moment. This means that by preventing the milk from staying frozen too long, you will ensure that your baby gets what he needs in each serving.
- After three months, the fats in frozen milk begin to deteriorate, reducing its nutritional quality.
- Milk loses vitamin C over time, so the earlier you use it the better.
Step 2. Thaw the milk carefully
You must provide the milk at body temperature. If your baby drinks cold milk, you can provide it directly after removing it from the refrigerator. Thawed milk may look a little different or have a different consistency than fresh milk. It is okay if thawed milk has these characteristics, so it is still safe to use it to feed your baby. You can place the milk in the refrigerator or use a little warm water to defrost it.
- If you plan to use the milk the next day, you can place it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
- Additionally, milk can be thawed by running warm water over the closed airtight container or by placing it in a container with warm water.
- You must use the milk that you thaw within 24 hours or, on the contrary, you must discard it.
Step 3. Do not thaw the milk in the microwave
The microwave heats the milk unevenly. This means that one part may be too cold and another may be so hot that it could burn your baby.
- Bottles that heat up too quickly can explode in the microwave.
- If the milk gets too hot, the nutrients can start to deteriorate, making the milk less nutritious for the baby.
- If you heat the milk too quickly, you can damage the antibodies that help build the baby's immune system.
Step 4. Check the temperature of the milk
Breast milk can be provided hot or cold. However, if it is too hot, the baby can get burned.
- Stir the milk gently to mix it. In this way, you will distribute the creamy part (that forms on top) throughout the milk. You should not shake it, as it can cause some of its nutrients to break down.
- After stirring the milk, pour a few drops on your wrist. The milk should be warm (but not hot) and feel nice to the touch.